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Florida 68, Arkansas 61: Gators survive, advance to SEC Tournament quarterfinals

The Gators did what they had to on Thursday.

Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

Florida could've wilted against Arkansas, especially in the face of a virtuoso performance from white-hot Dusty Hannahs. Instead, on Thursday at the SEC Tournament, the Gators stood tall, closing for a 68-61 victory that preseves their NCAA Tournament hopes for at least one more day.

Kasey Hill scored 18 points, a season high and two off his career high, and John Egbunu had eight points and nine rebounds despite a brace on his right hand, as the Gators weathered Hannahs' 33 points and a late run by the Razorbacks.

Hill was Florida's most consistent source of offense, driving and finishing at a better rate than usual, and Dorian Finney-Smith had all of his 13 points in the second half — including two crucial free throws in the final minute — to keep the Gators from gagging away a lead they held for the entire second half.

Hannahs did much of his damage on floaters and in transition, making just two threes, and Florida limited Arkansas — the nation's No. 11 team from deep entering Thursday's game — to only his two makes on 12 attempts. That was substantially better perimeter defense from the Gators, who had been shelled from deep since February began, and a difference of 18 points from the three-point line (Florida was 8-for-20 from distance) helped make up for another typically terrible performance at the charity stripe, where Florida made just 18 of 30 freebies.

The win earns Florida a second shot at SEC co-champion Texas A&M, which eked out a narrow win over the Gators in College Station in January. For Florida to keep driving toward an improbable NCAA Tournament berth, they'll need to knock down the Aggies on Friday.